Hall of Fame Game Answered at Least 2 Questions About the Saints Defense

Knox Bardeen@knoxbardeenNFC South Lead WriterAugust 6, 2012

Is Curtis Lofton ready to fill Jonathan Vilma's shoes?
Is Curtis Lofton ready to fill Jonathan Vilma's shoes?Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The New Orleans Saints have multiple questions to answer on defense heading into the 2012 NFL season.

How will the team react to new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's new schemes? How will the Saints utilize all the new linebackers added in the offseason? How will the front four get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks?

These are just a few of the topics of contention.

After watching Sunday's Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio, two questions about the defense may have been answered:


Will the Saints miss middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma?

It's still too early to tell if the Saints will miss Jonathan Vilma's leadership qualities both on and off the field. But Sunday night's Hall of Fame Game performance showed me that Curtis Lofton can more than fill Vilma's shoes in game action, and possibly even be an upgrade.

Jeff Duncan of the Times-Picayune made similar comments after Sunday's game:

"Curtis Lofton looked like a bigger, faster, more athletic Jonathan Vilma while serving his first game as the club's defensive captain in place of the suspended middle linebacker."

Lofton made three tackles in his time on the field Sunday and showed a quickness to the ball that made him Atlanta's leading tackler for the last three years. He appeared to run downhill at times, closing quickly, and made an impressive tackle for a loss in the first quarter.

One of the reasons Atlanta seemed quick to let Lofton leave via free agency was the fact that his cover skills required pulling him from the field on third downs. Lofton seemed patient in coverage and even broke up a pass early on.


Will Martez Wilson be effective in his move from linebacker to defensive end?

The Saints finished tied in 20th place last year with just 33 sacks.

In an effort to bolster the pass rush, New Orleans decided to move linebacker Martez Wilson to defensive end to utilize his speed on the edge and get at opposing quarterbacks.

The question—one that could only be answered with game action—before Sunday's game was how quickly, if at all, Wilson could pick up the nuances of the change of rushing from a down position instead of from an upright position.

Wilson recorded 1.5 sacks Sunday and showed an explosive push towards the quarterback. He seemed very capable of manning his position on the line and getting after the passer.